Sunday 28 August 2016

A post about Countryfile

Here's Johnny!

It's long been things like the first snowdrop of the year, gobbling down pancakes, trying to give up alcohol for Lent, hearing the first cuckoo of Spring, celebrating Easter, the coming of swallows, the Summer solstice, enjoying the seaside delights of Morecambe during the Summer holidays, blackberry-picking, harvest festivals, riding broomsticks, lighting bonfires, the Winter solstice, celebrating Christmas, and making a New Year's resolution to try to give up alcohol for January - markers of the year, reliably recurrent and reassuring. 

For BBC Countryfile watchers, however, such time-blessed calendar customs now include that yearly episode of Countryfile where John Craven takes his own sweet time announcing the twelve photos chosen for this year's Countryfile calendar.

That annual episode always follows exactly the same format, and the former Godfather of Newsround always says exactly the same things, year in year out, and always repeats those very same things throughout the entire episode - ad nauseum and beyond. 

Plus, midway though, he always makes his excuses, deserts his fellow judges in their hour of need, and goes walkabout to explore the historic location chosen as a scenic backdrop (to the strains of Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia) before then returning through some ruined archway to rejoin his fellow judges and build the tension to breaking point. 

(The Daily Express is reporting that tonight's judging was more exciting than The X Factor, with dozens of people tweeting that they literally died of excitement while watching it.)

And we'd have it no other way, would we?

(I'm addressing any fellow Countryfile fans among you there rather than all of you who think the whole thing is nowt but a muesli-munching townie's fantasy). 

It's now as much a part of tradition as eating mince pies, dunking for apples, guessing who's going to be on I'm a Celebrity, burning effigies of Guy Verhofstadt, and complaining that Christmas has become far too commercialised.

I was torn (for about a minute) on which of the twelve photos to vote for (for free online, naturally). I liked the rodent nibbling on the blackberries and the dawn-on-Anglesey-with-Snowdonia-in-the-background ones but in the end plumped for this truly fabulous effort ('click to enlarge', as they say) from an estimable chap called Tony Howes:

A barn owl intently watching 'Sunday Morning Live' on a dropped tablet amidst the reeds

I'm always on the winning side in elections and referendums (except for those where it went the wrong way), so I'm confident that Tony is going to be awarded the laurels this year. 

And rightly so. (I bet his photo's one of those that Simon King felt envious about).


  1. Lovely photo. However as a farmer's wife I am sorry that the programme is no longer relevant to agriculture. Even the weather is now 'for the week ahead' and not for 'farmers and growers'.

    1. I know you've had concerns about 'Countryfile' for quite some time, Deborah.

      My impression is that agriculture on 'Countryfile' is largely, though not entirely, confined to Adam Henson's bits (and I'm intrigued to know what you make of them).

      Today's episode was - beyond the calendar question - mainly focused on Stonehenge and matters of archaeology, with the farming angle mixed in with some pseudo-new-age stuff (with candles) about a newly-made long barrow.

      I still enjoyed it though and hope the canny farmer who created the long barrow makes a pile of money out of it.

      My advice is that he should throw in a few wind-chimes, despite it being underground. That should clinch his final bookings for eternal rest , especially from a certain type of eventually-to-be-dead 'Countryfile' viewer (not me).

    2. Missed tonight's episode. When Countryfile first moved to the Sunday evening slot it was an ideal vehicle to explain to the city dwellers how their food was produced and really explore the difficulties farmers had. But I also noticed how much the people of the town enjoyed the pieces that were really about farmers for farmers. It is a bit like the number of non farmers who would listen to farming Today on Radio 4 early in a morning. People really enjoyed and understood the programmes. But I realised what had happened to Countryfile when John Craven celebrated 40 years or whatever it was with the programme. We had chance to see the producers or editors or whatever they were, but appeared under 30 and I guess without a wellie to their name. Sorry if I have rambled, but trying to stress that the general public enjoyed a technical programme.

  2. Is Jo Brand still on the judging panel? If so why?

    Ditto 'Bake Off Extra Slice', why the programme and why her?

  3. The whole point of Countryfile is to demonstrate to London Luvvies, other BBC staff and Remain Voters that it's OK to travel up north or to Wales just so long as you understand and stick to the rules of the countryside. First, be patronising to any local you meet. Do spend your money there otherwise the local economy will collapse and the folk up north may have to go without. Second, look out for wildlife and take pictures - remember that wildlife is under threat from those nasty machines that farmers use and the chemicals they spray around. Traipsing around and taking pictures will show your support for wildlife in the face of threats from farming and agriculture and of course, it will deepen your understanding of countryside matters. Next join the queues on the motorways on Friday outbound and Sunday homeward - remember the countryside is just there for you to enjoy at your leisure - mainly weekends. It wouldn't exist without your support. It's OK, you don't need to spend your proper holidays here, just the occasional visit to your country property will be sure to keep these poor communities going.


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